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Public vs. private land access debate in Manitou

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Nov 30 2012 07:16:26 PM CST

The situation involves Manitou Springs, a 300-home subdivision and the owner of 70 acres.

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. -

In recent years, Manitou Springs has had several publicized disputes about land access. Another one could be on the way.

Steve Beisel, who owns 70 acres, said he has received letters from town officials and the nearby Crystal Park subdivision containing around 300 homes.  Beisel said the parties want to talk with him about accessing part of his land, so that they can better access their own.

Manitou Springs seeks more access to its 100-acre Iron Mountain open space.  The town paid $1.1 million for the property last year, after a legal hassle with the original owner, Tom McGee.  Town officials opposed an access road McGee wanted to build for a proposed development, because the road would have crossed town property.

Crystal Park is considering the addition of a second road in and out that can be used to evacuate residents during a wildfire or other disaster.  The subdivision evacuated as a precaution in the recent Waldo Canyon fire, and management wants to comply with current law that requires large subdivisions to have more than one way in and out.

Beisel's land is located between the town limits, Crystal Park and Iron Mountain -- making his property important for greater public access.  However, he's had past land disputes with town leaders and is wary of negotiating with them.

"I'm not for it, the way it stands," said Beisel.  "They just want to rebuild and maintain a gravel road.  I've been sued by Manitou for flood issues.  I understand the need for a second road (for Crystal Park).  But Manitou's letter was rather threatening.  They threatened to break through my gate and my property without permission, even though there's a court order preventing them from that."

Beisel keeps the road into his property blocked with a chain and lock to prevent trespassing.

Marc Snyder, the town's mayor, said previous land agreements between Beisel and McGee that allowed access to each other's land remain binding for the town.

"I don't know that the (town) really requires anything from the property owner," said Snyder.  "So it's our belief that we have the access we need to currently access our open space up there."

Beisel said he's open to discussing the matter with both parties.  He also said they should be willing to compensate him for access to his land.  Snyder disagreed, and Crystal Park hasn't mentioned it.

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